After winning this year’s Congressional Art Competition for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, a Beaufort County teenager will have her work displayed in the U.S. Capitol building for a year.
Isabelle Lieblein’s graphite drawing of an old car abandoned in the mountains of her home state, titled “Crushed,” was selected by a panel of Rep. Mark Sanford’s staff members over 30 other entries.
The rising Beaufort High School 12th-grader said her piece had started as a homework assignment for her art class, and she had no idea it would eventually be submitted to the districtwide competition.
“It was a class assignment, and I chose something a lot harder than everyone else, so I had to spend a lot of time on the weekends working on it. And it took me quite a few months,” Lieblein said. “I never, ever expected to win anything.”
The Congressional Institute, an organization based in Arlington, Virginia, that provides educational information about Congress, began sponsoring its nationwide Artistic Discovery competition 34 years ago to “recognize and encourage artistic talent in the nation and in each congressional district.” Since then, more than 650,000 high school students across the country have participated.
Lieblein met with Sanford on Thursday when she arrived at the Capitol for her drawing’s unveiling. He said that while he’d seen the paintings and drawings that had been submitted for competition, he didn’t decide himself who the winner would be.
It took me quite a few months. I never, ever expected to win anything. Isabelle Lieblein
“I probably don’t have the best artistic eye in terms of properly appreciating what would be best,” Sanford said with a laugh.
According to Lieblein, she was largely left to her own devices in completing the work.
“We did have a few critiques, but really, since I was so far behind from my other classmates, my critique was ‘good luck on finishing it,’ ” Lieblein said with a smile. “I’m glad I did.”
Her father, Bill, who accompanied her to the Capitol, said he couldn’t be prouder of his daughter and he praised her school district for retaining a robust arts program at a time when so many across the nation have become the victim of budget cuts.
“One of the great things about the schools down in Beaufort is they still have the arts, and without that, she wouldn’t have done this,” he said.
When asked what having her drawing displayed in Washington meant to her, Lieblein beamed:
“It’s so amazing. I can’t believe it.”
John Tompkins: 202-383-6041.